Boardgame Café

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Boardgame Café

Post  Carl_H on Mon 02 May 2016, 20:53

Evening all.

For the last couple of years opening a board game café in Sheffield has been on my mind, even before the other UK cafe's were opening up. I'm sure a few others on here have thought the same, and few will be unaware of the growing popularity of them.

Far from just an idea, I ventured quite far into the idea. I had a venue eyed up, drew up cost plans, spoke to marketing companies and much more. One of our most promising boosts was after speaking to Patriot Games. They hold regular game nights at their place in the small adjoining rest room and their most popular evening, Magic the Gathering nights, attract about 40 gamers about twice a week. They said that they would be open to the idea of holding their game nights at our game cafe possibly in exchange for selling their games. Or something along those lines.

The biggest problem in going ahead with the plans was that I have a full time regular job and could not justify giving it up to open a cafe when I have a house etc to pay for. Nor was it feasible to hire someone to run a new unknown business.

Another problem was trying to maintain a real gaming community feel. It was going to be hard to find a balance between making enough profit to keep the café open and running, and cheap enough not to drive anyone away. The boardgame cafés I have been to and seen online all seem rather pricey.

Anyway, the thought is still on my mind after working away from Sheffield for some time.
The thought came, would and could interested members of sheffield board games club work together to open and run a board game cafe? Whilst I've only met a handful of people at sbgc, the range of skills between us is pretty wide.

So rather than let my imagination run wild with the possibilities, I thought I'd post on here for people's thoughts and opinions. I'm sure most would agree that having a regular and dedicated place to meet up for board games would be amazing. Would something like this be manageable? Has anyone else had a similar idea?

Thoughts anyone?
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Aneurin on Tue 03 May 2016, 07:27

Lots of people have expressed an interest in starting a cafe in sheffield. I think the same old problem remains - a central location costs way too much in rent and boardgamers aren't renowned for spending lots of money - ask our last few landlords - which means people look at table charges - which can put people off. You could offset that against the price of a drink I guess. But then people play TI3 with a single bottle of water

One of Karl's friends recently set something up in Hull. You should speak to him.

Personally - I wouldn't want to mix my hobby with work.
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  karl_b on Tue 03 May 2016, 08:26

Aneurin's right, a friend of mine recently started one in Hull, cultural hub of the north. It's early days but going really well, I'd be happy to chat in more detail about what I know of his set up and could put you in touch.

Aneurin's also right about city centre location costs but personally I think a board games cafe in Sheffield would thrive. I thought Patriot would/should have gone down that route when they relocated.

I'm also available for architecture/ interior design consultancy and planning and building regulations!
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  paulyg on Tue 03 May 2016, 09:06

I think it's a good idea, and if you locate and price it right then it should do really well!

I think you have to come up with either a cover charge or membership fee (or some combination of both). If you rely just on income from food and drink then you've basically got a cafe where people don't buy much and stay for ages (and you've got to maintain a board games library on top of that). I agree that some board game cafes do seem expensive but I think it depends on how you look at it.

If you compare it with options that 'experienced' gamers have then it doesn't look that favourable. They can go and play games at Patriot, or at SBGC or their own house essentially for free. If they've got some games that they like, and they know some people to play games with, then it's going to be a harder sell to pay an entrance fee to play games in a cafe.

But for the less 'hardcore' (who perhaps don't have many/any games of their own or know much about the hobby) I guess the price is more a comparison with something else they might go and do for a few hours of fun - the cinema or the football or something - and it doesn't look so bad. They get the advantages of the games library and knowledgeable staff who can explain rules to them. When we visited Thirsty Meeples in Oxford I'd say that the majority of customers didn't appear to be hardcore gamers (not that I went to interview them!)

To get the more hardcore in as well you could look at offering incentives, membership perks, special events (e.g. Thirsty Meeples have had people like Reiner Knizia come and visit) and tournaments but then you're competing with game stores. I think a lot of the business would still come from couples / families who like traditional board games and fancy trying something new.

As Aneurin says, I think location is the big problem. I won't claim to know a lot about retail, but it's clear that Sheffield city centre is a lot quieter than other comparable cities and I don't imagine that the rents are a lot lower. Finding that perfect, affordable, spot could be tricky. On the other hand, there do seem to be opportunities for 'pop-ups' so maybe you could give it a go for 6 months to iron out the kinks? One place that a friend goes to in the US is a gaming cafe, but they've tried to keep it simple to begin with and they get all their food delivered in from other local business (local bakery & coffee shop) so that they can concentrate more on the gaming side of things whilst also being able to provide decent food & drink without having to run their own kitchen.

Aaaanyway, I'll stop rambling on. I don't think I could spare the time to help 'run' a cafe but I'm more than happy to talk through ideas and help with any business modelling.
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  BeardyTom on Tue 03 May 2016, 15:36

I'd love to see a tabletop cafe in Sheffield and I'm sure I'd give it some custom if there was one. I'm not sure I've got much in the way of relevant experience to help with setting up and running a cafe (although I do make a decent butternut squash risotto) but I do know a couple of people who have done it themselves (one that built up a successful business which they then sold for a healthy profit, and another that struggled for a couple of years before closing). If you want to speak to someone who's been through it all, perhaps I can put you in touch for a chat.

The only games cafe I've been in was the Tabletop Cafe on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. What they do is charge £3 if you want to play games but then you can play as long as you like. The food was really nice, too, which I'd guess is the most important thing to get right.
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Carl_H on Tue 03 May 2016, 16:19

All valid and shared concerns. I've been to the one in Edinburgh too Tom, can't say I was that impressed tbh. My plans always included large enough tables to be able to play larger games, which they didn't seem to have, and when I was there it was £3 each per game, which would be half the cost of buying it yourself if there were 4 or more players!
My original location was a large old art gallery. But more recently I've been looking at existing cafés and utilising their existing services. There is one that has a whole derelict floor above it in the centre of town that's quite large. I haven't approached the subject with them yet.

My main problem is the hours it would take to run the place. Which is why my thinking shifted to a combined effort in the running of the café and putting the question out there to the SBGC members. My hope would be a place where everyone working there would be involved and playing the games, not stuck behind a counter making teas watching everyone having fun. Would people be interested in being more of a 'minder' and introducer of games a couple of hours a week? And not a maker of tea and condiments?

If running costs were kept to a minimum by using the upstairs of a café instead of a visible shop front and people helping out, I'm sure it could easily be successful for hardcore gamers to hang out all day without pressures to keep buying drinks.

The café would most definitely have to be licensed too for anyone that loves a good pint with a game!
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Carl_H on Sun 19 Jun 2016, 15:10

OK so it looks like this venture may be coming to fruition! The Mrs is on board and will soon be taking some time out of work to draw up a business plan etc. She loves board games just as much as me but due to work commitments struggles coming to the Tuesday sessions.
Our aim is to provide a place that hardcore gamers will want to attend frequently too, not just new gamers looking to check out the new place. To do this it would be great to have the support of SBGC.
Our biggest problem is finding premises that are big enough but affordable enough to accommodate our growing hobby. We will be generating a questionnaire some time soon to find out what your priorities are for you to frequently attend a games cafe, so your participation would be greatly appreciated. At the moment our assumptions on the priorities are;
- Large enough area for large and small games for everyone
- Parking (free or cheap)
- Affordable enough to spend a full days gaming there

We are looking at a minimum of 1000ft2, preferably about 2000ft2, so if anyone knows or sees of an ideal venue it would be good to hear from you.

Throughout the process we hope to keep you guys updated and hopefully involved in the decision making so it becomes a place you would all like to hang out often, (and somewhere bigger than the Uni Arms with more chairs!)

If anyone would like to offer their support or help it would be much appreciated. We are in the early stages at the moment, having just recently decided on full steam ahead!

Cheers,

Carl and Leanne
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  SamVS on Sun 19 Jun 2016, 16:59

That's exciting, Carl! I would certainly be interested in helping out with this in some capacity. Maybe I'll do some very serious "market research" at other board game cafes, which might just coincidentally require me to travel around a lot, eat lots of food, and play lots of games. You can reimburse me for that, right? Razz

No, but seriously, it sounds great, and maybe when you've worked out the business plan we should talk and see if there's anything I can help you with. Mostly I just love board games, but in my eclectic work experience I've experienced several small businesses from many angles. As long you don't ask me to balance your books (which I can do, but I hate) I expect you might find me useful for something Very Happy

I have a friend who is also in talks to start up a board game cafe at The Portal. Could be useful if I try and put you in contact, if you like.


Last edited by Sam on Sun 19 Jun 2016, 23:48; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Carl_H on Sun 19 Jun 2016, 20:52

Cheers Sam! Any help would be great. It definitely sounds like your the guy we'll need!

And we just love board games too, that's why we want to avoid the whole commercial, charge too much to play side of it. We're just aiming for a big enough room dedicated to board games where anyone can come and play at any time in the week.

As for the 'market research', you might have to find that bit yourself :p
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  karl_b on Mon 20 Jun 2016, 08:20

Carl, I hope chatting at the Expo with Tom was helpful. I'm glad you've decided to go ahead with it and wish you luck.

Whereabouts do you want to be? Have you looked around Kelham Island? Up and coming area, rents might not be too high, close to town, decent on-street parking, etc.

I'm interested to see how things develop, keep us in the loop.
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  karl_b on Mon 20 Jun 2016, 08:24

A couple of things I'd add on the actual running of it: don't underestimate the amount of work needed to run the place, whilst the idea of being able to join in and play games all day sounds great, the likelihood is there will be a lot of drinks to get, food to make, etc; never forget it's a business, don't let your love of the hobby and affinity for other gamers too heavily influence your costs and business model. As Aneurin said above, and we discussed at the Expo, gamers aren't particularly going to be big spenders.
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  PaulC on Mon 20 Jun 2016, 09:49

I wish you every success, Karl. I don't think I have any specifically relevant skills to help you, but when you're up and running I'll definitely be a customer!
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Carl_H on Mon 20 Jun 2016, 11:40

Yeah Tom was helpful thanks. I'll have a trip across to see their place at some point and hopefully talk to them some more about it. Maybe as a SBGC road trip like Jamie suggested!

We're looking at broomhill/crookes area but have considered others including Kelham Island. There's not much that's come up really apart from a couple of bare units that need a complete fit out.

And me and the Mrs are still going to be working. We have a close mate that has experience in running bars etc and looking for a new job, so he will be working there full time and me and Leanne will be available to work evenings, hopefully when it's busy with gamers! So yeah we won't be disappointed at not playing games all day, just the evening times.

And as for the spending, it's one of the reasons we were looking for a bigger space to hopefully get more numbers spending less than aiming at fewer people paying more. We're hoping for a place people can come and spend a whole day there without it costing too much, as I love having full day gaming sessions round our place, and to take that away isn't what were aiming for. It's also why we're hoping for SBGC support, as 40+ gamers every Tuesday night is a good basis to start from, even though we don't send all that much! Bit hopefully that won't matter.

Looking forward to progressing it further anyway and chatting to all of you about it as we go. We've got our first premises viewing tomorrow before SBGC so fingers crossed we might be one step closer!
And thanks Paul, it's all we ask haha, although if you really wanted to help I'm sure there'd be some dishes to wash! :p

See you all tomorrow
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Carl_H on Fri 24 Jun 2016, 13:40

For those that I didn't excitedly tell on Tuesday, the viewing for the new venue went really well and it was the perfect place. All in all nearly twice the size of the uni arms room.

I'm in France for a week now (if we're allowed in haha) but looking forward to getting things moving when I get back. Hopefully soon enough there won't be the same problem with the room as we had on Tuesday. Bloody knitters!
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Aneurin on Fri 24 Jun 2016, 17:41

What are you planning to charge for table usage?
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Carl_H on Fri 24 Jun 2016, 20:05

We're hoping to not have to charge a thing.. Our aim is to make it a place that regular/hardcore gamers will want to visit regularly as well.
To cover costs the approach we are looking at taking at the moment is an optional membership scheme, but obviously make the benefits appealing enough so that everyone will want to join. We're hoping to put together some of our plans in the next few weeks and pass it round you fellow SBGC members to see if we're hitting the mark.
It's also another reason we've chosen a large enough place so we can hopefully get the numbers in and cover costs with food and drink.
It's not something we're trying to make a million bucks on, we just really think sheffield needs a dedicated place for board gaming, and hopefully if we have the approach of not trying to make as much money as possible, people will appreciate it and keep coming back!

That's the plan anyway Smile
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Aneurin on Fri 24 Jun 2016, 20:31

Any plans for a license? I know Karl's friend got this in place. Think it's a good idea. I like a beer and scratchings with my game.

Good to hear you aren't looking at table charges. I'm afraid that would put me right off from the get go.

As for membership... I personally think the only way it would work in a cafe setting is to offer money back in food/drink purchases. Almost like a guaranteed minimum income per person for you. Why? Because I can still play for free in many pubs across the city or even Patriot Games. Could be difficult to set the pricing for that though. I don't envy your task. Balancing the small income with the replacement board games as they inevitably get damaged.
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Carl_H on Fri 24 Jun 2016, 20:49

Definitely going to be licensed! Wouldn't do it without one!

Well it's still early days but to lay it on the line, we're looking at 6k pm overheads, and early ideas for membership benefits so far are;
Tiered membership, eg bronze (£5pm), silver (£10pm), gold (£15)
Benefits
Food and drink discounts
Free tournament entry
Free event entry
Free game rental
No deposits for games
Bring your own games

Also I love having a full day gaming, so we're thinking more that if there's no table charge, people can stay all day gaming and hopefully buy plenty of food and drink, but no pressure Wink

Like I said we're just throwing ideas round at the moment. We will be bringing them all together into some sort of plan soon and will give you guys a look to see what you think and for any ideas or changes. But in the mean time if anyone has any other ideas in general or for membership let us know so we can chuck them in the pot Smile
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Carl_H on Sat 02 Jul 2016, 22:29

Does anyone have any good names for a board game café? We have some decent ones to choose from so far and some terrible ones. I'll list some below but if you could any others that would be a awesome. If we choose your name we'll get you a pint or something Wink

D12 café
Bar and board
Cafe of Catan
Games beer games

Thanks!
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  JohnH on Sun 03 Jul 2016, 08:44

Cafe des Cartons (cafe of cardboards). Sounds French.
Victory Pints? The Victory Point? The Old Victory Point. Where you off Jim? Oh just down the old vic.
The Dick and Pickle (not sure how you feel about Will Wheaton)
Chits and Giggles.
The Thirsty Meeple.
Rolls and Moves, Card Draughts, and other punny mechanics...
Veni, Lusi, Vici. (I came, I played, I conquered)


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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Aneurin on Sun 03 Jul 2016, 08:59

Tokens & Teabags
The Token Teabag
Brewing Boards
The Cardboard Cuppa
Cuppa Cardboard
Cardboard Kettle
The Strategic Spoon
Nowt Token Out
Moccha (&) Meeples
Settlers of Cappachino
DicePots & TeaTowers
The Leading Latte
Dicejeeling




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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  PaulC on Sun 03 Jul 2016, 09:01

Boarders
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  BeardyTom on Sun 03 Jul 2016, 09:19

Munchkins?
Ludicafe?
Reiner's?
Game of Scones?
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  Aneurin on Sun 03 Jul 2016, 09:22

PaulC wrote:Boarders

I thought you voted remain - now you are going on about this... Jeez
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Re: Boardgame Café

Post  PaulC on Sun 03 Jul 2016, 09:32

Aneurin wrote:
PaulC wrote:Boarders

I thought you voted remain - now you are going on about this... Jeez

Oh no, don't send me off on another EU rant...
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Re: Boardgame Café

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